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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Teach Students to Teach--So they become better learners

Are students the only ones who ever learn in the classroom? Most teachers will say that they didn’t really know the material until they teach it. Therefore, instructors, trainers and teachers should encourage a "Teaching to Learn" atmosphere in their virtual or face-to-face classrooms.

This method asks learners to teach what they are learning to each other. Therefore, it is critical to the success of each learner that he or she not only go through course content, but also really think about how to teach the material to his or her colleagues. The most challenging aspect of this approach is that the learners will need to anticipate questions from their colleagues, and be prepared with answers.

This is when true learning takes root. Once a person is put in a position to have to teach and explain content to someone else, he or she will never forget it. The result will be increase retention and understanding.

Unlike traditional lecture-based training in which the facilitator teaches a group of learners by reviewing content in a monologue format, the "each one, teach one" methodology generates discussion of key points by the learners, facilitated by the trainer’s skilled use of initial and follow-up questions. The methodology assumes learners enter the training having mastered and synthesized the content, needing only clarification or refinement in their knowledge.

This instructional method or strategy sets different expectations for, and requires different skills from the trainer and the learner. The trainer is expected to keep track of the progress of the discussion, noting which key points are reviewed and to what degree of clarity and completeness. The trainer needs to be able to think on his/her feet, ready to formulate a new question or circle back to an earlier part of the discussion to reinforce a key point. The trainer must listen to what is said – and listen for what is not said.

Based on the flow of the discussion and the dynamics of the particular group of learners, the trainer needs to be ready to shift gears and change tempo to ensure all key points are addressed and less critical points do not receive an overabundance of time and attention. These skills are, of course, much different than the competency of presenting a prescribed set of information.

The "each one, teach one" method also requires a much higher level of involvement and engagement for the learner. Rather than acting as passive recipients of knowledge, This method asks learners to study and synthesize key knowledge before even showing up to the “training.” In the actual moment of “teach-back” e.g. presenting and clarifying key information to peers, learners are quickly able to identify their own level of comprehension of material.

in addition, the opportunity to participate in this way reinforces key skills and forces the learners to develop an ability to concisely and intelligently synthesize information and engage in substantive conversation within the context of how the learning will be used on the job.

Give it a try in your classroom or your training session.


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1 comment:

Alan Montague said...

How about taking it one step futher. On the basis that there is 'content everywhere' how about using this as the start point for the learning itself. Try giving students access to the content in the classroom and making the assimulation and sharing of it the activity. I'm a fan of Thiagi and his principle of "Let the inmates run the asylum" It requires high levels of facilitative skills by the trainer but puts the hard learning work where it belongs, with the learners.
Thats my 2c's